Wednesday, June 15, 2016

State prison system announces end to solitary confinement for inmates under 18 New Youthful Offender Program puts focus on education, behavioral health and treatment needs

Jun 15, 2016

The North Carolina state prison system is ending the use of solitary confinement for its youngest inmates and introducing a new youthful offender program to focus on the needs of young people serving sentences in the adult prison system.

“The mental health, medical, educational, social, spiritual and emotional needs of these youth are numerous and complex,” said W. David Guice, Commissioner of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. “It is important that while these youth are in our care, their unique needs are accurately identified and addressed in the most effective way possible.”

The new Youthful Offender Program is effective September 1, 2016 to allow time for appropriate staffing and staff training.  Its mission is to identify the risks and needs of each youth and effectively address each area of need.   By doing so, personal outcomes for youth are enhanced through education, behavioral health treatment, life skills development and family/community reunification services.  The multidisciplinary approach to treatment is aimed at assisting the youthful offender in making a positive adjustment to prison and a successful transition back to the community.  

There are currently about 70 inmates under age 18 housed at Foothills Correctional Institution in Morganton, where the facilities are structured to maintain required sight and sound separation from the adult population. 

These youth are housed in a variety of categories including:

  • Regular youthful offenders – regular population inmates under age 18 sentenced to state prison for their crimes
  • Safekeepers – pre-trial inmates who would normally be housed in a county jail but are admitted to the state prison system, usually due to medical, mental health or security-related factors, or the lack of appropriate facilities in the county jail for housing young offenders
  • Confinement in Response to Violation (CRV) - probationers sentenced to a 90-day period of incarceration as a result of repeated technical violations of supervision
  • Pre-sentence diagnostic – Convicted, but not sentenced, offenders who are housed briefly in the state prison system while a diagnostic study is conducted and a pre-sentence investigation report is prepared to assist the court in properly sentencing the individual

Discipline for youthful offenders who violate prison rules is handled through loss of privileges and, if necessary, placement in modified housing.  Food, visitation or telephone calls are not withheld.  Placement in modified housing does not involve use of restraints and provides access to programs, recreation, education, health care and religious services equal to the access given to the regular population.  Pro-social interactions occur in smaller groups and modified housing is used for the least amount of time necessary to achieve behavioral correction.

The full document describing the new Youthful Offender Program can be found here: